In an interview with Peter King, for the MMQB podcast [iTunes link], Mark Waller, who handles international business for the NFL, said that he believes the League has laid good foundations for a franchise in London. He says that a team could be located in London some time after the next collective bargaining agreement is signed with players and new TV deals are in place. That would be around 2020.
Waller told King that he has just one doubt about relocation: “Could a team play in London year-in, year-out and be competitive enough to be a contender for the Super Bowl on an ongoing basis?”
It’s worth listening to the whole interview, in which King says he could see a London-based team handle the extensive travel by playing its road games in blocks but that they would need to have some kind of US-based training camp to accommodate player movements.
My big question about a London franchise remains the lack of US prime time games. Suppose a London team hosted a conference championship. How would the NFL feel about playing that in the morning or early afternoon, rather than on prime time TV?
Talking of which, Waller said that the reason the NFL is so keen on early afternoon kickoffs in London is not because it’s more convenient for UK fans but because it hits morning TV in the US and in evening prime time in Asia. In fact, it’s the only time Asia gets to watch the NFL at a reasonable hour. Time differences mean that Asia never gets a live NFL game on a Saturday or Sunday.
One final tidbit – Waller said that around 45 percent of attendees at the London games are from within two hours of the London. Another 45 percent come from the rest of the UK. Five percent travel from the US and the same amount from the rest of Europe.
Photo: Timmy O’Toole